Guy Bourdin

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Guy Louis Bourdin (2 December 1928, Paris – 29 March 1991, Paris), born Guy Louis Banarès, was a French fashion photographer known for images that "tiptoe[d] to the edge of pornography".[1]

Life and career[edit]

Guy Louis Banarès was born 2 December 1928, at 7 Rue Popincourt in Paris, France.[2] During his military service in Dakar (1948–49), Bourdin received his first photography training as a cadet in the French Air Force.[2]

In 1950 he returned to Paris, where he met Man Ray, and became his protégé. Bourdin made his first exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de la Bourgogne, Paris.[2] His first photographic exhibition was in 1953.[3] Bourdin exhibited under the pseudonym Edwin Hallan in his early career.[4] His first fashion shots were published in the February 1955 issue of Vogue Paris. He continued to work for the magazine until 1987.[2]

An editor of Vogue magazine introduced Bourdin to shoe designer Charles Jourdan, who became his patron, and Bourdin shot Jourdan's ad campaigns between 1967 and 1981. His quirky anthropomorphic compositions, intricate mise en scene ads were greatly recognized and always greatly anticipated by the media.[2]

In 1985, Bourdin turned down the Grand Prix National de la Photographie, awarded by the French Ministry of Culture, but his name is retained on the list of award winners.[2] He was one of the best known photographers of fashion and advertising of the second half of the 20th century. He shared Helmut Newton's taste for controversy and stylization, but Bourdin's formal daring and the narrative power of his images exceeded the bounds of conventional advertising photography. Shattering expectations and questioning boundaries, he set the stage for a new kind of fashion photography.[2] Bourdin worked for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and shot ad campaigns for Chanel, Issey Miyake, Emanuel Ungaro, Gianni Versace, Loewe, Pentax and Bloomingdale's.[3]

Since his death, Bourdin has been hailed as one of the greatest fashion photographers of all time, and his son, Samuel Bourdin, released a book with the finest prints of his father's work, called "Exhibit A" in 2001 (co-edited with Fernando Delgado). His first retrospective exhibition was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2003, and then toured the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris.[2]


Bourdin was the first photographer to create a complex narrative, then snatch a moment—sensual, provocative, shocking, exotic, surrealistic, sometimes sinister—and simply associate it with a fashion item. The narratives were strange and mysterious, sometimes full of violence, sexuality, and surrealism. Bourdin was influenced by his mentor Man Ray, photographer Edward Weston, the surrealist painters Magritte and Balthus, and filmmaker Luis Buñuel. Although less well known to the public than Newton (also working for Vogue), Bourdin might have been more influential on the younger generations of fashion photographers.[5]

Because Bourdin's models "often appeared dead or injured", some critics have accused him of objectifying women. His photographs were described as "highly controlled" and "famous for a mysterious sense of danger and sex, of the fearsome but desirable, of the taboo and the surreal".[1]


Bourdin was not a natural self-promoter, and did not collect his work or make any attempt to preserve them; in fact he refused several offers of exhibitions, rejected ideas for books, and wanted his work destroyed after his death (but since he did not keep so much of his work for himself, fortunately most of it was saved).[6] In fact, his photography only appeared in magazines because he "shunned" books, exhibits, and awards.[1] The first major book devoted to his work was Exhibit A, released ten years after his death.[2]

Madonna's 2003 music video for "Hollywood" was greatly influenced by the photography of Bourdin, so much so that a lawsuit was brought on against her by Bourdin's son for copyright infringement.[7]

Dreamgirls: The photographs of Guy Bourdin, a documentary, was screened for the BBC in 1991. Newton and Jean-Baptiste Mondino discussed how Bourdin managed to shoot fashion photography in his own unique way.[8] Contemporary photographers such as Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Nick Knight and David LaChapelle have admitted to being great admirers of his work.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Guy Bourdin was a short man with a whiny voice, and had a reputation of being incredibly demanding. Dark rumours surrounded him: his mother abandoning him as an infant, the suicides of his wife and two of his girlfriends, and the cruelty in which he treated his models.[10]

He was abandoned by his mother in 1929, the year after he was born,[6] and was adopted by Maurice Désiré Bourdin, who brought him up with the help of his own mother, Marguerite Legay.[4]

Bourdin married Solange Marie Louise Gèze in 1961, who gave birth to his only child, Samuel in 1967; she died of heart disease in Normandy in 1971.[2]

Selected exhibitions[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Rothman, Lily (2 April 2012). "Guy Bourdin (1928–1991)". Time. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gilles de Bure, Guy Bourdin, Actes Sud, coll. « Photo poche », 2008, broché; ISBN 2-7427-6539-5.
  3. ^ a b Gingeras, Alison. Guy Bourdin. Phaidon, 2006.
  4. ^ a b "Bio",
  5. ^ "Guy Bourdin influenced a generation of photographers with sadistic images drawn from his own appetite for sexual perversion."Wood, Gaby (13 April 2003). "Death becomes her". Culture (The Observer). Retrieved 21 May 2009. 
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ "Madonna Accused Of Picture Piracy". The Smoking Gun. 30 September 2003. 
  8. ^ Bourdin official website; accessed 17 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Now Hanging Guy Bourdin", New York Times Magazine, 8 May 2009.
  10. ^ Blahnik, Manolo (8 April 2003). "The naked and the dead". Style section (The Daily Telegraph). Retrieved 21 May 2009. 

External links[edit]